(Three cathedrals in the Moscow Kremlin, 17 bMay 2014/Tom Heneghan

(Three cathedrals in the Moscow Kremlin, 17 May 2014/Tom Heneghan)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for two monasteries and a church that were demolished during Soviet times to be rebuilt in the Kremlin, the largest overhaul of the site’s architectural landscape in nearly a century.

Putin has cultivated strong ties with Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, adopting more conservative policies and prompting some critics to suggest the line separating state and church has become blurred.

At a meeting on Thursday with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and top administrators of the Kremlin site, Putin said his plan would involve tearing down a building used for administrative purposes to restore the site’s “historic appearance”.

Putin gave no indication of the costs of construction. Russia’s economy is teetering on the brink of recession and faces reduced access to foreign capital after the West imposed sanctions over Moscow’s policies in Ukraine.

The Kremlin, a fortified landmark sprawling across 28 hectares in central Moscow and home to the president’s office and his administration, has seen many attacks in its six-century history and has come to symbolize Russia’s enduring power.